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Bearwallow Mountain Hike

Nearby: Top Asheville Hikes | Chimney Rock | Lake Lure | Hendersonville | Apple Orchards | Farms to Tour
Bearwallow Mountain NC
Just part of the view from atop Bearwallow Mountain

Bearwallow Mountain NC
The fire tower was built in 1933

Bearwallow Mountain NC Hiking Trail
Start your hike on the other side of gate (sign is back right)

Bearwallow Mountain is just 19 miles from downtown Asheville, on the way to Chimney Rock and Lake Lure (near Gerton). It's also just 16 miles from downtown Hendersonville and 10 miles from Chimney Rock and the Hickory Nut Gorge. Thanks to the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, a newly constructed trail by volunteers welcomes hikers to this bald summit at 4,232 feet elevation with panoramic views.

Located on the western rim of the Hickory Nut Gorge, the woodland hike ends at a grassy meadow at top, home to friendly, grazing cows during the summer. The historic fire lookout tower marks the summit (not open for climbing) along with a ugly but necessary collection of communication towers. See sweeping views northeast to Mt. Mitchell and west to Hendersonville.

After driving a mostly unpaved road up the mountain for two miles, park roadside at the top of the ridge. You'll see a gate in front of the service road that goes to the top. Walk around the gate and look for the big sign that marks the Bearwallow Mountain Trail. This one-mile trail climbs 537 feet in elevation, so it's strenuous but not difficult. We recommend climbing the mountain on the trail (mostly shaded) and walking back down the service road for a two mile loop hike.

Despite being names for bears wallowing in the meadows below, bear sightings are rare. Camping is not allowed on the mountain.

The North Carolina Forest Service fire tower was used until the mid 1990s to watch out for forest fires. Unfortunately, hikers are not allowed to climb the tower. In 2009, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy secured protection of 81 acres on the mountain and working to secure 500 acres. Then the trail will connect to their Florence Preserve in Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock State Park.

Bearwallow Mountain NC Hike
Cows enjoy the prime location for their pasture

Use this map for general directions - it will NOT take you to the trailhead. Use these directions:

Driving Directions
From Downtown Asheville: Take I-240 east for continue straight onto US Hwy. 74-A East toward Chimney Rock. Follow 74-A East for about 12.5 miles (up a very long set of switchback curves) to the town of Gerton. Turn right on Bearwallow Mountain Road and go 2.1 miles to the top of the ridge and park on the side of the road (where pavement starts) near the gate in front of a dirt road (don't block gate). This road is unpaved, but all cars should make it fine. There's a few steeper and bumpier sections. This road continues down the the mountain on the other side and eventually takes you to US 64 near Hendersonville.

Bearwallow Mountain NC
View looking southwest toward Hendersonville

May 4, 2014: Bearwallow Beast 5K & Summit Festival
Climbing from the floor of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge in the village of Gerton to the summit of scenic Bearwallow Mountain, the Bearwallow Beast 5K Trail Run features one of the most unrelenting race ascents you'll find in the southern Appalachians. Traversing asphalt, gravel, and single-track trail, the course offers a challenge for even the most experienced runner. Runners finish atop Bearwallow Mountain where they with the reward of local beer, live bluegrass, food vendors, and a 360° view at the mountaintop party! Race starts at 2 PM in Gerton. Not running? You can still enjoy the Mountaintop Festival that begins at 1:30 PM and is free. Festival parking is available at Grand Highlands (10 Autumn Sky Drive, Hendersonville 28792). School bus shuttles will be available between parking and the festival location at the summit.

This event is hosted by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and is a big fundraiser for them. CMLC began protecting Bearwallow Mountain in 2009, and has since conserved 165 acres of the iconic peak through conservation easements with its private landowner. CMLC is striving to ultimately protect more than 450 acres on the mountain. For more race information, go to their Web site.

Bearwallow Mountain NC

Bearwallow Mountain NC
The summit of Bearwallow Mountain NC


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Writing & Photography By Mark File - ©2003-2014 File Investments, Inc - All Rights Reserved